The Giants weren’t going to be remade in an offseason, and if there’s one thing the most reason one was able to prove to fans and front office personnel alike, it’s that The Churn does work.
Now that the Giants know they can go down to the secondhand store and grab whatever they see and eventually come across something that gives them value they can start targeting specific areas to improve, knowing that in doing so they’re not going to ignore something else.
The Giants weren’t a tremendously slow team last year, but after playing a lot more dudes this year and a bunch of returning thirtysomethings a year older, they are now, definitely, a slower team. We can argue about the utility of foot speed, but for a team that probably won’t have a lot of power even next year, the extra 90 feet and defensive disruptions speed can provide might net them a win’s worth of runs over the course of a season.
At least, speed can’t hurt.
A quick reminder on how Statcast looks at foot speed:
The Major League average on a “competitive” play is 27 ft/sec, and the competitive range is roughly from 23 ft/sec (poor) to 30 ft/sec (elite).
If you clicked that link, then you know that last year’s squad had 20 players who had at least five “competitive runs”. This year, the Giants have 23.
You can also look at this chart to see just where those 23 rank compared to the rest of the league by position. Steven Duggar really helps the Giants in the centerfield race; but otherwise, as you can see, the Giants have a mostly slow roster of hitters, compared to the league average.
Your league average or better runners:
9. Mauricio Dubon — 27.1 ft/sec (29 competitive runs)
8. Mike Yastrzemski — 27.5 ft/sec (120 CR)
7. Abiatal Avelino — 27.7 ft/sec (5 CR)
6. Kevin Pillar — 28.0 ft/sec (230 CR)
5. Mike Gerber — 28.0 ft/sec (6 CR)
4. Steven Duggar — 28.2 ft/sec (117 CR)
3. Austin Slater — 28.3 ft/sec (62 CR)
2. Joey Rickard — 28.5 ft/sec (62 CR)
1. Jaylin Davis — 28.9 ft/sec (9 CR)
That’s probably the list most of you would guess if the setup was, “The Giants have nine players who have faster than league average foot speed. Can you name them?” Some thoughts on this list:
- Steven Duggar doesn’t have as many attempts as the rest of the league because of his injury-shortened season, but he remains one of the fastest players in baseball.
- Davis’ appearance here is a nice reminder that even though he didn’t get hit bat going at the plate before getting hit by a pitch, his speed and plate discipline showed a useful and intriguing player. He also has two of what Statcast calls “Bolts” — “any run above 30ft/sec.” — which leads the team. For context, Trea Turner leads MLB with 100 Bolts in 184 competitive runs. Still, Davis is very fast.
- Maurcio Dubon being above average at another facet of the game should come as no surprise.
- Austin Slater really can do a little bit of everything.
- Mike Gerber has struck out 13 times in 22 plate appearances, and yet he has a double, which is at least one competitive run, and then I can’t think what the rest would be. Still, if he ever figures out how to make contact at the major league level, he can be a threat on the basepaths. Big, big if, of course, but it’s still early enough.
- Mike Yastrzemski and Kevin Pillar having power, above average speed, and average to slightly better than average defense makes them very useful players to the point that both should probably be on the team next year... and yet, they’d also make attractive trade chips for teams that want to improve but don’t want to spend any money or give up Top 20 prospects to do so.
The rest of the list is unsurprising and worthy of a chuckle:
10. Connor Joe — 26.8 ft/sec (8 CR)
11. Alex Dickerson — 26.7 ft/sec (70 CR)
12. Corban Joseph — 26.6 ft/sec (25 CR)
13. Aramis Garcia — 26.5 ft/sec (5 CR)
14. Evan Longoria — 26.5 ft/sec (157 CR)
15. Stephen Vogt — 26.4 ft/sec (69 CR)
16. Donovan Solano — 25.9 ft/sec (81 CR)
17. Brandon Crawford — 25.7 ft/sec (206 CR)
18. Scooter Gennett — 25.6 ft/sec (48 CR)
19. Zach Green — 25.6 ft/sec (8 CR)
20. Yangervis Solarte — 25.4 ft/sec (37 CR)
21. Brandon Belt — 24.9 ft/sec (138 CR)
22. Pablo Sandoval — 24.3 ft/sec (115 CR)
23. Buster Posey — 24.2 ft/sec (181 CR)
I would’ve been shocked had Posey not been last on this list. I also need to point out that Michael Reed did not register a competitive run in his 8 plate appearances. And, Corban Joseph’s utility as a major league baseball player is nonexistent. He can’t get on base, field, or run faster than league average.
Last year’s top runners were Steven Duggar, Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez, and Alen Hanson. Not really a surprise there. And not really a surprise with this year’s list, either. What’s maybe surprising, depending on how you want to look at it, is just how much of a decline the veteran core has undergone just on plain old foot speed.
If we consider the core of the Giants’ lineup to be Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, and Brandon Crawford — and, I’ll grant you, that probably hasn’t been the case since, like, July, but just bear with me — then all of then have experienced some Old Man Decline.
Posey: -0.6 ft/sec
Belt: -1.0 ft/sec
Crawford: -0.1 ft/sec
Longoria: -0.4 ft/sec
You could just see the Belt decline. He hasn’t looked healthy all year long. Sure, we can assume it’s the knee that’s causing the problem, but it’s more accurate to say that that’s how he is now because of the knee. Brandon Crawford has managed to hold his foot speed for the most part, but is on the verge of losing his championship belt as slowest shortstop in the sport. Johan Comargo has a 25.6 ft/sec average at the moment.
The Giants getting younger and faster next year will go a long way to preventing another September Spiral.